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Our Pastors

Pastor John Roekle

Pastor John D. Roekle has been in Racine serving the congregation since 1996.  Ministry began for him in Florence, Wisconsin where he served St. John's Lutheran Church after graduating with a Master of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin in 1991 until arriving in Racine.  Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, Pastor Roekle went to high school at Michigan Lutheran Seminary graduating in 1983.  His next four years were spent at Northwestern College (which amalgamated with Dr. Martin Luther College to form Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota), graduating in 1987.

In 1990, Pastor Roekle married Katherine (Katy) Behnke.  Together they have four sons: David (married to Hannah); Michael; Stephen; and Benjamin.  The Roekle family has enjoyed traveling, especially to cities with Major League Baseball parks.  He is an avid sports fan and still enjoys playing basketball.

Recent Sermons by Our Pastors:

The Perfect Home - Pastor John Roekle

November 3, 2019 [All Saints] Revelation 22:1-5 J.D.Roekle

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The Perfect Home

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Home is where the heart is.” “There’s no place like home.” “I’ll be home for Christmas.” There is something about calling a place home. A place where we feel comfortable. A place where we feel needed. A place where we feel safe. A place where we feel loved.

The reality is that a home like that doesn’t come along all too often. Even the best homes have their problems. That’s because of what happened in the first home which God had made for Adam and Eve. He had made the perfect home for Adam and Eve to live in. They had everything. All their needs were taken care of. They were in perfect harmony with each, with the world, and with God.

But then the perfect home was infiltrated by Satan who convinced Eve that things weren’t as perfect as they thought. He lied to Eve, making her think that God was holding out on them. Eve bought the lie, and so did Adam.

The perfect home was now a broken home. Now all they knew was wickedness, depravity, immorality, and every other corruption. Their relationship with each and with God was now strained. The corrupt world which we call home today had become a reality.

It wasn’t long after the Garden of Eden incident, however, that God, in speaking to Satan, made a promise of reversing what Satan had engineered. It was the seed of the woman that would ensure that people would once again be in harmony with the world around them, with other people, and especially with God. This seed, Jesus, would do this by coming to this imperfect home, reconciling the world to himself through his perfect life and sacrifice.

And let’s not be mistaken. The goal was not to make a perfect home here on earth. The goal was to reconcile our relationship with God, so that we enter the perfect home in heaven. This world will never be perfect. In fact, it will only get worse.

But God has a special place waiting for all his saints who have gone through the trials and tribulations of this place. He has a perfect home waiting. And John records his vision of this perfect home in Revelation. Let’s take a closer look at that perfect home. As we do, may it lead us to live our lives in joy as we look forward to being permanent residents of that perfect home.

Keep in mind that the book of Revelation gives a series of pictures. Pictures that assist us in understanding things we are incapable of fully comprehending this side of heaven. The verses before us today give us a glimpse of the perfect home ahead of us.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city.”

The picture of the perfect home ahead is similar in some ways to the Garden of Eden. The river of the water of life is one such similarity. Genesis tells us that a “river watering the garden flowed from Eden.” This water was responsible for keeping life going in the Garden of Eden. Water is so necessary for life even today!

The river in the perfect home ahead also contains the water of life. But this is more than the kind of water that covers over 2/3 of the earth’s surface. This water of life reminds us of the water that Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well about: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus was talking about His Word! And the water in the perfect home ahead also has the life-giving power of the Word. You see, the river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Jesus Christ is the source of life. He gives life by providing forgiveness through his sacrifice on the accursed tree that gives us life. It is that forgiveness that will sustain us throughout eternity! In fact, it is the only thing that enables us to enter into the perfect home ahead.

The picture of the perfect home continues: “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.”

The tree of life is in the perfect home ahead just as it was in the Garden of Eden. In heaven, this tree is a reminder that all who enter heaven become perfect and remain perfect forever. And this perfection won’t be a dull and boring existence. It will be a full life. There will be so much there to give us perpetual joy!

In fact, there will be nothing there that will make us ever want to leave. “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” As long as people inhabit this earth, nations will be in uproar; kingdoms will come and go; and we will be dealing with sickness and disease; wars and rumors of war; crime and terrorist acts; heartache and pain; broken relationships and lives torn apart. But in the perfect home ahead, there is healing from all these things. Perfect healing. Permanent healing. We can be assured that it will last because “no longer will there be any curse.”

Now remember what caused all the problems in the first place in the Garden of Eden. Simply, it was sin, and its result… the curse it brought on people and on the world. The ground that Adam was to work was cursed, causing pain and toil to all who work it. For Eve, it was pain in childbirth that came as a result. And as a result of sin, all creation groans as in pains of childbirth. Everything is affected by the curse due to sin. We may sometimes wonder what is wrong with our world and wonder why things keep getting worse. It shouldn’t really be a surprise to us. As long as we live here, we will experience the consequences of that curse.

In heaven, the curse and its consequences will be gone permanently. Never to return! Does that make you long for heaven? You know, God doesn’t remove the consequences of the curse here for that very reason. So that we long to live where perfection is restored!

And the following is a true sign that perfection will be restored: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” What makes heaven so attractive is the fact that God lives there. The Lamb, Jesus Christ, lives there. We will live there with him. And just as we are to serve him while we live on this earth, we will also serve him regularly in heaven. A form of service to God is worshipping him. In heaven, we will have opportunity to worship the Lamb constantly. Let’s not let our feeble minds interfere with the joy that thought should give us. After all, there are so many factors that interfere with our worship here. All of those will be gone in heaven. We will be in the presence of our Savior, serving him day and night.

And it won’t be like he will be isolated somewhere on a throne where we won’t really get to see him. We have this promise: 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” You and I can hardly begin to imagine the joy we will have to see the one who went to such a great extreme to save us. Think of what a great reunion it is when a loved one has gone off to war and then returns home for the first time in a long time. Perhaps there was contact through email, mail or phone calls. But nothing can beat seeing that person face to face. That’s what will happen in heaven. You will be face to face with the one who has made you his own through water and the Word, putting his name: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, on you. You became his own then, and he will permanently fixate his name on you in heaven, assuring you that you are forever his.

And as permanent members of God’s family, you are assured 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”

In heaven, there is no more need for either created or artificial light. That is because Christ will provide the light naturally. Remember what that means. Think the Aaronic blessing, the benediction that we end many of our services with. The second phrase of it states: “The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.” The glory of God will illuminate heaven. And because of that, it will contain so many more blessings than we could possibly imagine. His blessings will fill the perfect home ahead forever.

One of those blessings is this: “…they will reign for ever and ever.” Because the Lamb who once was slain broke his three day prison, he does reign. Without end! And because he reigns, all who believe in him will live like royalty once we reach the perfect home ahead.

I pray that you think of this church as your home. But understand this: First Evan is far from a perfect home. There is only one perfect home and that comes when the Lord takes us from this world. It is the role of this home, First Evan, to have you look at things from that perspective. It is the role of the church here to keep you singing the refrain: I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home. My perfect home! Amen.

Christ Jesus Displays His Patience - Pastor John Roekle

October 6, 2019 [Pentecost 17] 1 Timothy 1:12-17 J.D.Roekle

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Christ Jesus Displays His Patience

Dear Friends in Christ,

A young father in a supermarket was pushing a shopping cart with his little son, who was strapped in the front. The little boy was fussing, irritable, and crying. The other shoppers kept their distance from the pair because the child would pull cans off the shelf and throw them into the aisle. The father seemed to be very calm; as he continued down each aisle, he murmured gently: "Easy now, Donald. Keep calm, Donald. Steady, boy. It's all right, Donald." A mother who was passing by was greatly impressed by this young father's calm demeanor. She said the father, "You certainly know how to talk to an upset child—quietly and gently." And then bending down to the little boy, she said, "What seems to be the trouble, Donald?" "Oh no," said the father. "He's Henry. I'm Donald."

You can relate, can’t you?! Maybe you lose patience when the check-out line at the store seems to take forever. Perhaps, you lose patience with the driver ahead of you who is going too slowly or the driver behind you who is right on your tail. It might be you lose patience with your child when they keep doing the same thing over and over even though you’ve told them to stop.

Patience doesn’t come easy. Even the most patient person has a breaking point. But Jesus, Paul says, has unlimited patience. And he displays that incredible patience through Christians.

The Apostle Paul was incredibly zealous in whatever task he pursued. Before Jesus got a hold of him, he was a faithful Jew. He was a Pharisee who tried to follow God’s law perfectly. And in his zeal, he pursued those who went against the Jewish faith. He persecuted Christians.

And then he came to realize the error of his ways. He came to realize what a sinner he was. The word ‘sin’ means to miss the mark. Think of this in terms of archery. The object in archery is to hit the middle, the bullseye. If you have ever tried archery, you know how difficult it can be to be consistent at it. And in fact, no matter how good you get at it, it is impossible to consistently hit the bullseye every single time. Even the greatest archers in the world aren’t able to do it. Even they miss the mark they are supposed to hit.

In archery, how do you know how well you shot your arrows? You examine the target. You go up to the target to retrieve your arrows and you find that while you have one bullseye, the other arrows are off the mark.

How did Paul know he was missing the mark? It was the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ, who appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and forced Paul to look at the target: Why are you persecuting me? Jesus hit Paul between the eyes with the full brunt of the Law. When Paul examined the target, he now realized how badly he had missed the mark. By persecuting followers of Jesus, he was persecuting God himself.

Our Lord patiently works with you and me too…pointing out the fact that we miss the mark. In fact, he lets us know that it’s in our genes. We have a flaw that doesn’t even allow us to hit the intended mark. Our very nature is corrupt. And we can’t do anything by nature than to miss the mark. In fact, we miss the whole target.

And so, what should Christ Jesus do with us? He should really say, I want nothing to do with you. All you are and what you do is contrary to me. You don’t live up to the standard I have set. That’s the standard of perfection. Paul couldn’t live up to it either. As one who was persecuting Jesus himself by persecuting Christians, we might naturally think that God should have simply cast Paul away. Isn’t that precisely what you and I deserve? For God to punish us by casting us away from his presence?

But our God is incredibly patient. And we see that patience on display in Jesus. Not only did he confront Paul with his sin, but he also brought Paul to his side. He made Paul his own. Just think of that. Paul had once thought that the death of Jesus was a good thing because he thought Jesus and his followers were the bad guys. But Jesus patiently worked with Paul to get him to realize that Jesus’ death was intentional so that Paul’s sins would be wiped away. So that your sins and mine would be wiped away.

But there’s more. When Jesus lived here, he never missed the mark. He always hit the intended target…perfectly! And Jesus clearly lives again to tell us about it.

Yes, God has displayed his patience with us by not casting us aside. He patiently expresses his love for us. He has made us his own by faith. And even now, he continues to have patience with us. After all, coming to faith doesn’t mean that suddenly you are able to hit the intended target every time. You and I still miss the mark. And since we are talking today about patience, think of how often we display impatience. How often do you lose patience with a loved one because they don’t seem to be as sanctified as you are? How often might you lose patience with God’s Word when it says something you don’t like, or something you don’t understand?

It is a good thing that Jesus has unlimited patience. As such, He patiently reminds us that we are forgiven. He points to the font and tells us that our sins are washed away in him. He gives his very own body and blood to us in the Supper to very personally assure us of his patient forgiveness.

Then he further displays his patience by using us for his purposes. The prime example was the Apostle Paul. Once Paul was on Jesus’ side, it is incredible what he all did. His zeal for the Lord is unmatched. Wherever he went, no matter what the circumstance he proclaimed: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

Paul was a well-known persecutor of Christians. As he proclaimed the saving Gospel, just think of who and what were really on display. Jesus and his patience, where Paul was concerned, was on display by the very fact that God chose not only to save Paul, but to also make him His instrument.

That’s how God is using me as well. I must confess that I am the worst of sinners. At the same time, I join heartily with the hymnwriter: “Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me.” God uses a sinner like me to reach sinners.
And so, he uses you too. Jesus’ matchless patience is on display in you too. May you and I then, display patience for others. May we be patient in the way that we treat them and interact with them. May we display patience for others as we share with them the truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

How many people do you know that don’t have that truth? Whoever it might be, don’t give up on them. Patiently look for ways to tell them about Jesus. After all, Jesus uses his Spirit to convict their hearts in his own time. Be patient. After all, Jesus has been patient with you and me! Amen.

God's Word Divides - Pastor John Roekle

September 15, 2019 [Pentecost 14] Jeremiah 23:23-29 J.D.Roekle

23 “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord,

“and not a God far away?

24 Can anyone hide in secret places

so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord.

“Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

God’s Word Divides

Dear Friends in Christ,

On our trip to Israel in June, we visited a place where some believe that Jesus was baptized by John. The location is at the Jordan River just north of where it connects to the Dead Sea. It is also the area where many believe that Joshua crossed the Jordan River with the children of Israel into the Promised Land. At this spot, there are people who come to be baptized.

The Jordan River at this point can’t be much more than 50 feet wide. You could easily cross to the other side. But what prevents you from doing that is a sign posted by the water: BORDER AHEAD. The Jordan River serves as the border between the country of Jordan and Israel. If fact, there is another sign posted here that warns; ‘You are traversing a military zone. Do not cross fences due to fear of landmines.’ Our guide mentioned also that there may be hidden snipers at the ready in case anyone is tempted to cross the border - the river - to the other side.

The border divides the two countries. And that division is taken very seriously. God’s Word has the same effect as a border. We may think of the Bible as the thing which primarily unites people together. In fact, it is Scripture which unites us in this church. However, that same Word also works to divide. Just as borders are a necessary division between countries, so also the Bible works to make necessary divisions.

There are some voices out there who will try to make an argument that there are many different ways of getting to heaven. Some even say that everyone who is religious believes in the same god. Many people just call him by a different name. For instance, Muslims call him Allah and Hindus call him Brahma. In Deuteronomy 6:4, the Bible might at first glance appear to agree: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

You can pretty much get the Bible to back up just about any belief you want when taken out of context. In fact, it was Jesus himself who clears up this dispute about one God with different names. He says (John 14:6): “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

God’s Word clearly divides here. Anyone who refuses to accept Jesus as true God, does not accept the God of the Bible. So, the Bible clearly separates Christians from all other faiths.

But even among Christians, the Bible divides. It divides the truth from false teaching. And it divides those who speak the truth from those who speak false teaching.

Jeremiah the prophet witnessed this firsthand. God sent Jeremiah with a specific message. Repent! During Jeremiah’s time, he watched as the people were pulled farther away from God by corrupt priests and wicked kings. The people were led down the path of worshipping false gods. In being led down this path, society declined. Violent and immoral behavior became the norm.

Jeremiah’s call to repentance was a difficult message during difficult times. It was also a message that wasn’t well received. People refused to listen to his call to repentance. They refused to listen even when Jeremiah warned that if they didn’t turn from their ways, God’s judgment would be on them. They would be carried off as captives of the Babylonian Empire.

Another factor working against Jeremiah was the presence of other prophets who were contradicting Jeremiah’s message. They showed up claiming that God had talked to them in a dream. There was no need to repent, they claimed. The nation of Judah would not be harmed by the Babylonians, they declared.

And so God intervened, telling Jeremiah: “Am I only a God nearby,”

declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? 24 Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

Did you catch what God was telling Jeremiah? Do these false prophets really think I can’t hear what they’re saying?! I’m everywhere! I know everything!

The fact that God is everywhere and knows everything brings fear to anyone’s heart, doesn’t it?! He sees the things that I do, whether good or bad. He knows my very thoughts, either good or bad. He knows the very words that I speak.

It is this thought that makes the preacher tremble. We are tasked with handling God’s Word properly as we communicate it to people. We want to be clear about what we say so that we are not misunderstood. We want to say only what God says and not say more and not say less. We are to be careful not to change anything that God says.

That being said, you should always listen with discerning ears. Be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures to make sure that everything we tell you from here is what God says.

That also is very important to do in the world. Make sure that you closely examine whatever you read that is labeled Christian. If you listen to a Christian preacher or listen to Christian music, don’t just assume that it is all good. You and I can be fooled into thinking that it is fine just because the name Jesus is attached to it. The false teaching that is often peddled in the name of Christ can come back to harm us.

Think of it this way. Someone hands you a $20 bill. You don’t think anything of it and put it into your wallet. What you don’t realize is that the $20 bill handed to you is counterfeit. You go to the store and purchase a couple small items, and hand the woman at the register the $20 bill. She takes the counterfeit detector pen to it and discovers that the $20 you just handed her is a fraud. So how will that affect you? At the very least, you’ve been defrauded of $20. You may have to talk to the police. It may cause you legal problems.

What happens if you ingest false teaching? Say, for instance, you hear someone say that something is not a sin when it clearly is. Like that fake $20 bill, you may simply accept the teaching as truth. What can potentially happen? Well, maybe nothing at first. But if you allow it to fester in your heart, you may be apt to fall into that sin. It can affect your relationship with God. Most of all it can affect your faith in Jesus.

Remember that the very first false teacher was the devil. And his object in spewing false teachings was to win Eve’s and Adam’s souls. Satan accomplished what he set out to do. And what did God do, even though Eve and Adam fell for the devil’ false teaching? God spoke his word of promise to Satan. He told Satan that he was going to separate the parties of this newfound friendship. He was going to make Eve and Satan enemies. His Word divided the two.

And it was Eve’s seed, Jesus, who would complete the division. He came to conquer the things which keep us separated from God: sin, death, and hell. Jesus accomplished exactly what he set out to do. Jesus took on our sin and faced the separation we deserved as he suffered hell on the cross. Now through faith in Jesus we are united with our Triune God.

Through faith, we know that God forgives us all sin. Even when we stumble into believing false teaching, we are still forgiven. But that doesn’t mean we thoughtlessly believe anything we hear. It doesn’t mean we recklessly proclaim whatever we want about God. No, we take God’s Word seriously. We take it seriously because it is the truth. The truth that alone can save.

After all, God’s Word is powerful. The evidence is in the fact that you are here today. You are here because of God’s Word. God’s Word has crushed your hearts of stone changing them to hearts that love Jesus. The power of God’s Word is seen when you confess Jesus as your Savior. And it is God’s Word which separates the truth from that which is false. Be encouraged then to stay connected to God’s Word. Amen.